Urma Bishnoi is just 19, but she’s been married for more than 18 years. No, that’s not a typo.
When Bishnoi was 10 months olds she was married to a boy in her village of Kaparda, India, the Hindustan Times reported. But the now 19-year-old said she will no longer tolerate this fate and is seeking an annulment of her child marriage.
“I do not accept child marriage,” Bishnoi told the Indo-Asian News Service. “I was married when I was just 10 months. I want to study.”
Since refusing to accept the marriage, Bishnoi’s in-laws have threatened to cut off her nose and ears, according to the Hindustan Times. If her marriage is annulled, Bishnoi’s family may be socially ostracized for bucking the long-accepted cultural norm of child marriage within their community.
Bishnoi’s case for annulment is being supported by the Saarthi Trust, an India-based nonprofit that works to fight child marriage and establish children's’ and women’s rights. The organization has managed to annul at least 30 child marriages so far, and hopes to add Bishnoi’s marriage to the growing list.
In 2017, UNICEF reported that nearly half of all child brides were in South Asia and with 23 million girls married before their 18th birthdays, India is home to more child brides than any other country in the world. Nationwide, approximately 27% of children under the age of 18 are married, but in the state of Rajasthan, where Bishnoi lives, the rate is significantly higher at 35%.
Poverty tends to be a major motivating factor behind child marriage and because girls are often seen as a financial burden on their family, the practice disproportionately affects them. Cultural attitudes that treat girls and women as property rather than people have also contributed to the persistence of the practice.
When girls are forced to enter into marriages at a young age, they may be taken out of school and lose out on education opportunities, but Bishnoi hopes that this won’t be the case for her.
"I look forward to the start of a fresh life where I can study and make a future of my own," she said.
Global Citizen campaigns for gender equality. Stand up for the rights of girls and women, and against child marriage, by taking action here.